On Nov. 7, Kent County residents in the Kent District Library service area will be asked to consider renewing the millage that funds its operations for another 15 years.
KDL is asking voters to consider a new, lower rate of 1.1 mills, which reflects a reduction of 10.9% off KDL’s current millage rate of 1.2355 mills. Taxpayers will see immediate savings as the KDL Board has committed to lowering the millage rate effective Jan. 1, 2024.
“Kent District Library is able to lower its millage because we are part of a thriving and growing community where new taxable real estate has produced more revenue,” said KDL Executive Director Lance Werner. “As good stewards of your tax dollars, we can reduce the millage while still continuing offer our current slate of programs and services. The reduced rate will allow us to add new materials, programs, events and services as we have always done.
“If voters reject the millage, though, we would be forced to close our doors since the majority of our funding – approximately 90% – comes from millage dollars.”
KDL serves residents in 27 municipalities through 20 branches, a bookmobile, its main service center, 5,000-plus annual in-person programs and a host of patron-focused services, from in-branch printer/Wi-Fi access and loanable mobile hot spots to early literacy initiatives and an extensive collection of talking books and Braille resources.
If approved, the millage will generate $26.6 million in its first year, which will cover the expense of physical and digital collections, employees, programs and events, tech tutoring and other library services, rent and other expenses. The new millage will expire Dec. 31, 2039.
If approved, the lower millage will save taxpayers $3.1 million annually or $46.5 million over its life. With the new lower rate, the average homeowner in the KDL service area will pay $145.75 annually for access to library services – or $2.80 per week, less than the cost of most cups of coffee.
KDL exists to further all people and is an open and welcoming hub for everyone. Last year, the award-winning library system logged more than 2.1 million interactions with patrons, including branch visits, event participation and virtual program attendance. KDL has nearly 140,000 patrons, adding 20,395 new card holders last year.
In 2022, KDL saved individual library users an average of $1,348 in value for physical and digital items they would otherwise have had to purchase. During that same period, library users saved $85.2 million by checking out physical materials and digital items.
KDL’s collection is extensive, with more than 700,000 physical items and 15.6 million digital items. These include books, e-books, apps, magazines, movies, television programs, audio books, video courses, video games, music, online databases, research materials and at-home learning materials, as well as access to statewide materials and collections. In 2022, total circulation rose 6% to more than 7.1 million while computer and Wi-Fi usage grew 26%.
Known for its family-friendly programs, KDL offers more than 5,600 programs and outreach events each year, from its popular baby/toddler/preschool story times, learning labs and craft classes to book clubs, concerts and special activity and interest groups. Program and outreach attendance grew more than 61% in 2022.
KDL employs 346 people and receives more than 4,000 hours annually from more than 500 volunteers. KDL is governed by a board of trustees who are appointed by the Kent County Board of Commissioners for four-year terms and represent various geographic regions of the county.
Recognized as a leader among libraries, KDL has won numerous awards and accolades for its collections, programs, services and team, including recognition as one of America’s Star Libraries, given the highest 5-star rating by the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service and a Top Innovator Award from the Urban Libraries Council’s Innovation Initiative for Institutional Change and Strategic Management.
Additionally, Lance Werner won the American Library Association’s Ernest A. Di Mattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession. KDL staff have also been recognized by Library Journal with the Mover and Shaker Award and by Michigan Library Association with the Francis H. Pletz Award for Excellence in Service to Youth.